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Sustainable Conservation Executive Director Honored for Environmental Vision

Ashley Boren and Arnold Schwarzenegger

Ashley Boren, Sustainable Conservation Executive Director, is one of six 2007 recipients of the prestigious James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award. The award recognizes Ashley's innovative, collaborative approach to solving critical environmental problems facing California. A generous $125,000 cash prize and increased visibility will allow Sustainable Conservation to enhance our efforts to promote strong partnerships between business, agriculture and government leaders.

In California, farmers and environmentalists have a long history of distrust. Decades-old feuds over water supplies, air quality, and pesticide use have left many believing that the divisions between these old factions run too deep to cross - but not Ashley. Ten years ago, Ashley became executive director of Sustainable Conservation, which was founded on the idea that the environmental movement was missing a major opportunity to work more collaboratively with the private sector.

Since then, Ashley and Sustainable Conservation have not only proven that it's possible to break through long-standing animosities, but that a collaborative, problem-solving approach to environmental challenges, one that involves businesses as partners rather than opponents, can succeed in ways that more traditional strategies of regulation and litigation may not.

Achievements

  • Sustainable Conservation is reducing air pollution in the Central Valley by convincing farms to adopt conservation tillage, a practice that requires fewer tractor passes to prepare soil for planting. A pilot project involving 16 farms cut dust pollution, which contributes to the valley's high asthma rates, by more than 85% and reduced tractor fuel expenses up to 74%.
  • Sustainable Conservation is helping the dairy industry, the state's largest farm sector, reduce the impact of cow manure on the environment. We have persuaded numerous dairies to use methane digesters that treat manure while extracting methane gas for electricity generation. So far this technology has saved farmers $2 million in energy costs, diverted 500,000 tons of manure annually, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Most recently Sustainable Conservation is partnering with the horticultural industry to address the problem of invasive species, one of the greatest threats to biodiversity. A coalition of major retailers and nurseries has agreed to keep 21 of the most invasive types of garden and landscaping plants off store shelves and to launch PlantRight, a major educational campaign to promote noninvasive alternatives.

Sustainable Conservation's success is due in part to its disarming approach. We begin each project by developing a thorough understanding of the businesses and industries involved. We then work in partnership to find practical, cost-effective ways to protect the environment that also make business sense.

Ashley herself is a model of this approach. A former fundraiser for The Nature Conservancy with a Stanford M.B.A., she blends a lifelong commitment to the environment with strong business acumen.

By promoting these innovative strategies, she and her colleagues at Sustainable Conservation are addressing a range of California's major problems - including climate change, air and water pollution, and loss of wildlife - and helping entire industries shift toward environmental sustainability.